Elk in the Mosquito Range- Revisited

The Colorado Rockies

There must’ve been close to 100 elk filling the valley below me, and I was astounded. I didn’t want to do anything to call attention to myself, so I just sat there quietly, peering over the boulder from afar. It was some sort of luck or fate that put me in that right place and at the right time, because getting into a position to see a big bunch of wild animals was not one of my goals for that day.

Continue reading “Elk in the Mosquito Range- Revisited”

Measuring Ancohuma

Climbers running GPS to determine the elevation of Bolivia's Anchohuma
Measuring the summit elevation of Ancohuma

Ancohuma is a big mountain located in an area of the Bolivian Andes known as the Cordillera Real. Until a team of three American teenagers and one adult guide collected summit data in 2002, its elevation was never determined. There was conjecture up to that point that its height was possibly over 23,000 feet, which would make it the tallest peak in the Western Hemisphere, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. It ended up being 21,079 feet- tall, but not the tallest. Continue reading “Measuring Ancohuma”

The Top

The Top of Huayna Potosi; Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Take the broad shoulder
Above the Upper Lake
To the North Ridge.
Then, follow it up to an obvious headwall.
Bypass that to the east
And gain the summit pyramid.

Thirty degrees,
Mixed terrain.
One step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Dirt, rock, then snow.
Be careful
With your feet.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Crampons,
Balling up.
Tap with
Your ice axe.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Look to the west,
And see the mountains
Create the horizon.

Step.
Rest,
And breathe.

The rope,
Keep it
On the downside.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Chunks of snow,
Sliding
Down the slope.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

The tie-in,
Check
The knot.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Ice axe,
In the
Uphill hand.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Don’t fall,
But be ready
To self-arrest.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Blue sky overhead,
Cloud build-up
In the west.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Hot and thirsty,
Snow and ice
Everywhere.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Wind,
Slapping
The face.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Keep following
The trail
In the snow.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

The top,
Over there and
Not so far.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Steeper,
But only
For a short distance.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Water,
Got to stop
To take a drink.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

That has to be it.
The summit ridge,
Straight on up to the top.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Plumes of snow,
Being blown
Over the top.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Everything,
Seems to be
Below.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Which one
Is the actual
Summit?

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Pain,
Lungs burning, and cold feet.
Joy.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

No more up.
No time to rest.
Don’t waste your breath.

Just one more step.

The top.

Mountain

 

Mountain

Last light,
First light,
And the North Face
Begins to smile.

Magic moment,
Brilliantly bright,
Summit shines,
In all its might.

Suddenly, abruptly,
The crowning glory
Roars to life.

A twinkle of limelight
On the mountaintop.
Briefly highlighted
By the glowing sun.

In a fleeting instant,
The peak shows-off
Its entirety
In one broad stroke.

Ponderance erupts.

For a short time
Life is large, possible,
Loud, tough, and magnificent,
Because a chunk of dirt, rock, and snow,
Reminds you that it is.

Audio Version:

Aconcagua

In Celebration of the Winds

Cirque of the Towers,
Wind River Range

Rumbling rivers, creeks, and streams.
Water left pure,
From the moment it falls
On the Continental Divide, as rain or snow,
And begins its journey
Down to the oceans.

Some of it goes into the ground.
Some fills my cup.
Some provides the Brook Trout a place to live.
Some gives the Spruces a drink.
Some makes wallows for the elk.
Some creates glaciers.
And some goes back into the sky and falls again.

Up here, the water is guarded for a while,
By the Winds,
The Wind River Mountains that is.

The range of mountains is inhospitable to some,
But beckoning to others.
The place is too rough for roads,
But covered with paths.

People go there,
To hike, fish, climb, camp,
Meander, sit, ponder, and dream.

But few remain–
There are other places
Better suited to
Building, driving, using, living,
And staying.

Besides,
Protecting the water
Is a full time job.

The mountains, forest,
Creeks, and meadows,
Are left free to do
What they do best.
And they do it well.

The water will move on
And nourish the flatlands.
It’ll irrigate corn, bathe babies,
Water lawns, and get purified
For drinking.

One way or another, the water will change
Once it flows beyond
The protection of the Winds–
For better or worse.

But up in this neck of the woods,
All is well for a time.
And the water is clear
Thanks to Pingora, Gannett, and Fremont.
Dinwoody, Lizard Head,
Desolation, and The Sphinx.
Washakie Pass, Titcomb Basin,
Dickinson Park, and The Cirque of the Towers.
Popo Agie River, Deep Creek Lakes,
Mitchell Peak, and Wolf’s Head.
Stough Creek, Three Fork’s Park, Wind River Peak,
And so many more…

The world is a better place
Because of them.

Audio Version:

Lizard Head, Wind River Range

The Ruth

Three people crossing the Ruth Glacier in Alaska
On the Ruth

I look out the window
Of the three-seat plane,
As we near the landing site
On the Ruth Glacier.

In the Alaska Range.

Not long after take-off, we flew over trees, rivers, and then the lower Glacier.
Now, we’re flying through the Great Gorge
Between startlingly huge mountains
And above a river of ice.
The world is the colors of snow, rock, and sky.

Prominent peaks dominate.
Denali, the great one, is straight ahead but not close.
The Moose’s Tooth is to our right and nearby,
Both imposing but welcoming.

In the Alaska Range.

Suddenly, we break free of the Gorge
And fly into the Ruth Amphitheater.
The venue of venues.

The Cessna turns left
Toward the Mountain House.
We haven’t even landed yet,
But the concert has already begun.

In the Alaska Range.

We’re late, what should we do?
I take a deep breath,
And realize that thankfully we’re not too late,
Because the music never ends.

The sky is clear
And the landing site on the snow is vivid.
The closer we get to the ground,
The more massive and magnificent the peaks become.

In the Alaska Range.

The plane touches down and stops.
I open the door and step
Out onto the Ruth.

Warm in my parka
Overwhelmed by the surroundings.

There are few people, no musical instruments,
No conductor,
And not much of an audience.

But I feel the full force of what I hear,
And am compelled
To whisper to myself where all can hear, “Bravo.”

Audio Version:

In the Glacier Plane

Recipe

On the Summit

Water,
Sand,
Snow,
And rock.

Fly fish,
Cycle,
Ride,
And walk

Gravel,
Grass,
Mud,
And scree.

Backpack,
Wander,
Scale,
And ski.

Mountain,
Cavern,
Dirt,
And ice.

Explore,
Trek,
Cave,
And climb.

Talus,
Forest,
Stream,
And crag.

Summit
Surf,
Sail,
And cast.

Tundra,
River,
Lake,
And hill.

Yoga,
Swim,
Camp,
And chill.

Ocean,
Desert,
Cirque,
And peak.

Prepare,
Proceed,
Persist,
And Seek.

Simple,
Treasures,
Pure,
And sweet.

Audio Version:

On the Road

Clearing in the West- A Poem

DSC07130
Clearing in the West

It’s clearing in the west.

Without a doubt,
It’s brighter over in the west,
Beyond
The far ridge.

The storm is moving on.
The wind has dropped,

But the clouds persist.
And snow is everywhere.
So for now,
Zip up the door
And settle
Back into your bag.

Because it’s clearing in the west.

Just,
Grab the stove,
Clear off a spot.
Find the pot,
Wipe it out.

Set it up,
Make it stable,
Fire the burner,
Add some water,

Ready your cup,
Break out the snacks,
Wait for steam,
And time for tea.

Adjust your seat,
Take off a fleece,
Stretch your legs,
But mind your feet.

It’s getting warmer,
Crack the door,
Forget the gloves,
Pull off the cap.

Ready your drink,
What will it be?
Spiced cider, hot chocolate,
Coffee or tea?

Finally, it boils.
Turn off the stove.
Add the mix.
Pour in the water.
Sip a hot drink.

You can relax
and enjoy the moment.
Because when you unzip the door,
You’ll look out and see

That it’s clearing in the west.

Audio Version:

 

Camp at the end of a bushwhack
A Mountain Campsite

Hamburgers and Lizard Head

A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.

Pingora
Pingora, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Lizard Head is a prominent peak just north and east of the famous, long, and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges, and spires in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular Outpost Wilderness Adventure trip, we backpacked with two groups of 7 via different routes up to Bear Lake. The lake is on the east side of Lizard Head and was the location for our backcountry base camp. Once there, we set up two close but separate campsites, each located between the lake and the mountain. The plan was to use each as a base for exploring and adventuring in the area. Since it was during the Fourth of July holiday, we knew that there’d be many people in the general area, but few would venture into that particular neck of the woods. And, as a special Fourth of July treat, we brought along freeze-dried hamburger patties, a cutting-edge item back in the ’80s.

Continue reading “Hamburgers and Lizard Head”

The Summit

Summit perspectives.

Measuring the summit elevation of Ancohuma
Summit of Ancohuma- Cordillera Real, Bolivia

The stillness was almost eerie. I’d never been on a mountain summit when there was anything less than a stiff wind blowing. Since I didn’t have to try and find any sort of wind break, there was extra time to sit and take it all in. A pure luxury. There was plenty of time, no approaching storm, and all kinds of sunlight. And to top it all of, we all had full water bottles and snacks to spare. Continue reading “The Summit”

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